Looking for a personal trainer is a lot like buying a new car. If you are looking for a safe and reliable car, you go to your local dealership where there are several inspected and certified models for sale. You look around the lot and find a car that looks right. You check out the specifications, built-in options, and any awards the vehicle may be known for (i.e., Kelly Blue Book or J.D. Power and Associates), which is taped to the backseat window. When you think you’ve narrowed it down to one or two, you take it for a test drive (10 minutes or so). When you think you’ve found the right one, you sign on the dotted line and drive the car off the lot.
For most new personal training clients, finding a personal trainer is eerily similar. Instead of a car dealership they go to a fitness club or personal training studio. Instead of reading the printout taped to the backseat window they read the personal trainer biographies posted on the wall. Once a personal trainer is chosen, most fitness clubs will offer a free consultation session or workout before they are asked to commit to a personal training package or program.
Although this sounds great, there is an obvious flaw in both buying scenarios. People buy a car for one primary purpose, as a mode of transportation. With that being said, the most important component of the car, which relies on its ability to go from point “A” to point “B” … is the engine. Unfortunately, most people don’t bring a mechanic with them to a car dealership or even bother to look under the hood.
People buy personal training because they require expertise, guidance, and motivation to achieve their fitness goals. Although names of certifications and a photograph are important to know, it doesn’t guarantee a trainer knows how to apply the knowledge they learned in their courses, that they have experience helping people achieve the same types of goals you have, or that the two of you will get along. Much like the car buying scenario, it’s not often a person goes to a gym with a personal trainer’s help to choose their own personal trainer!
5 Traits of Great Personal Trainers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were over 250,000 fitness trainers and instructors in the United States. You can assume that not all of them are “great” personal trainers. Using the 80/20 rule, let’s say that 20 percent of all trainers account for 80 percent of all personal training sales. That would mean that at least 20 percent of the trainers are at least “good” (two out of every ten trainers you see). Assuming these two trainers are certified and knowledgeable about fitness and exercise, how do you identify the ones that are truly “great” and the right fit for you?
Just like any successful relationship, trust, mutual respect, and compatibility are essential to make it work. Just because a personal trainer has multiple certifications and scored the highest on their test, doesn’t mean they will be the most successful personal trainer at a fitness club. In a reverse scenario, you may have a new personal trainer, with just one certification, who has a full client list and is extremely successful. Certifications and experience aside, there are five key personal traits that differentiate good personal trainers and truly great ones. Great personal trainers:
- Are good listeners and observers
- Are good communicators
- Are honest and humble
- Show the utmost respect (to you and others)
- Continue learning and growing
Good Listeners and Observers
Great personal trainers take the time to learn as much as they can about you to determine the best way to help you achieve your goals and effectively motivate you with each workout. Not only do they need to know what exercises and activities to choose for your program, they also need to know how to get you to work at your best, overcome obstacles, and be successful.
Because fitness and exercise involves precise movements, great personal trainers are very good at communicating and explaining information and instructions to clients. This requires the use of speech, eye contact, and touch to help clients perform exercises correctly and get the most with each workout. This requires patience, understanding, and compassion.
Show the utmost of respect (to you and others)
Respect is “showing regard and appreciation for the worth of someone or something”. It is earned and is the basis for most long-lasting relationships. Great personal trainers do the “little things” that show their clients they care, including:
- Showing up on time
- Being prepared
- Motivating them, but being conscious of their client’s abilities and limitations
- Giving them their full attention throughout their workout
- Being attentive to their concerns, no matter how small
Honest and Humble
Although clients generally look for personal trainers who are knowledgeable about fitness and health, there is no single personal trainer out there that knows everything. The best personal trainers are those who are honest with their clients, and are not afraid to say “I don’t know”. Granted, they don’t want a trainer that says that too often, but most will appreciate the honesty and hope the personal trainer will seek out an answer for them (because they trust them to share helpful information). This is another way of showing respect for one another.
Continue learning and growing
Because the fitness, health, and wellness fields are so vast in scope and knowledge, great personal trainers are those who are constantly learning and expanding their expertise. Learning doesn’t necessarily mean reading books or taking courses. It could include the experience they learn each day, analyzing it, and using it in future scenarios to provide better overall service. Personal trainers get a chance to learn with every client, yet not all of them use this opportunity wisely.
Your Role as the Personal Training Client
Although you may have found the best personal trainer, your experience will only be as good as your contribution to the relationship. The traits that make a great personal trainer are also the traits that make a great personal training client. Relationships are a two way street and you get out of the partnership what you are willing to give. In this way, your investment in personal training will undoubtedly yield the greatest results!